Belkin late last week said it was investigating an employee, Michael Bayard, who allegedly offered money to reviewers on Amazon.com's Web services affiliate Mechanical Turk in exchange for pumped-up, five-star reviews of Belkin products.
Various news reports indicated Bayard was offering about 65 cents per positive review, and current events blog The Daily Background posted a screen grab of Bayard's Mechanical Turk invitation, which urged prospective reviewers to use their "best possible grammar and write in U.S. English only," "always give a 100% rating (as high as possible)," "write as if you own the product and are using it" and "tell a story of why you bought it and how you are using it," among other guidelines.
Belkin's top brass said it would act quickly to remove any and all associated postings from Mechanical Turk and also check in with online channel partners to make sure they weren't linking to those reviews.
"Belkin does not participate in, nor does it endorse, unethical practices like this," said Belkin President Mark Reynoso in a company statement. "We know that people look to online user reviews for unbiased opinions from fellow users and instances like this challenge the implicit trust that is placed in this interaction. We regard our responsibility to our user community as sacred, and we are extremely sorry that this happened. It's also important to recognize that our retail partners had no knowledge of, or participation in, these postings."
On Monday, tech blog Gizmodo posted a new e-mail message allegedly from a Belkin employee, who suggested that unethical practices among Belkin marketing executives reaching out to reviewers are widespread. The anonymous e-mailer wrote:
"While never mentioned in an 'official' policy, for years it has been pressed upon ALL Belkin employees to do whatever is needed to get good product reviews and good press. Everything from sending blog writers a device with custom firmware that hides known bugs yet claiming it to be official release firmware, faking hardware logo certifications (specifically Apple and MSFT), releasing blatantly inaccurate data from test results making our devices look superior to others, to placing 'tailored' reviews of our products into places visible to consumers (as reported Amazon, etc), as well as writing poor reviews of competitors' products."
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